Countdown to Bliss

Patrick DeSimone and Maria-Ray Guido

Met: April 19, 1983

Engaged: March 19, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Late October 2002

When Maria-Ray Guido was 24, her father, a fourth-generation undertaker, came to her bedroom door and announced that she was going to go take the state funeral-director exam that afternoon.

“Can’t I think about it?” she gasped.

“It’s been thought about,” he said, morbidly.

Fifteen years later, Ms. Guido-a honey blonde with dimples, doll-like blue eyes and an unlikely effervescence-was sitting in the library of the Guido Funeral Home, a five-story 1838 Greek Revival mansion in Carroll Gardens. Twelve-foot windows were draped in white silk. Outside, a gaslight flickered near the massive mahogany door, flanked by granite pillars. It was all very Six Feet Under .

Ms. Guido’s fiancé, Patrick DeSimone, was sitting nearby: a medium-sized man of 38 with a high forehead and a very straight nose. “He comforts me,” said Ms. Guido, who claims she takes weeks to recover emotionally after she organizes a funeral. Her fingernails were painted a shiny red, and she was wearing a black silk suit and a glittering four-carat princess-cut diamond. She flicked open a can of Sprite for her man.

“I don’t think you’ll meet any funeral director as emotionally involved as she is,” said Mr. DeSimone, who co-owns a building-maintenance company. “She thinks with her emotions. I think with logic and fact.”

They began dating as freshmen, after meeting in English class at St. John’s University on Staten Island. Mr. DeSimone was often spotted zipping around the quad à la James Dean on a Suzuki motorcycle, or in the mess hall, clad in skimpy running shorts, carefully toting up the number of calories he’d eaten that day. “He’s extremely organized,” Ms. Guido said. “I love that about him …. He was different than anyone else I’d ever seen.”

Her father, who’d developed a habit of hanging up the phone on his daughter’s suitors, was thrilled when this big man on campus began joining the family for formal dinners in their candle-lit dining room. Mr. DeSimone was entirely unfazed by the family’s sepulchral environs-the third floor devoted to coffins, etc. “Business is business,” he said. “It’s recession-proof. It’s steady.”

But seven years of dating went nowhere. “He had this thing that if we were going to be married, he had to take care of me, and he didn’t feel ready,” Ms. Guido said.

In 1992, she got engaged to someone she’d known since grammar school. A week before they were scheduled to say their vows at the Plaza Hotel, she got a letter from Mr. DeSimone. “Cancel the wedding,” it read. “Let’s run off together.”

“Here I was,” she said, “having this opulent, incredible extravaganza that my father had been planning his whole life . And I’m like, ‘ Now he’s asking?'”

At the altar, she kept straining to hear the vroom of Mr. DeSimone’s motorcycle, but it never came. She married the other guy. The marriage was shorter than the honeymoon. Dad was pissed.

Ms. Guido spent the next decade getting engaged and disengaged several times to her college sweetie, but this time it seems to have “taken.” They’re organizing a ceremony for 30 people on St. John in the Virgin Islands, with tin drums and a chocolate and blood-orange Sylvia Weinstock cake. When they return from the tropics, the plan is for him to move into her three-bedroom apartment down the block from the funeral parlor-and, ultimately, to be interred with her at the Holy Cross Cemetery in East Flatbush.

-Anna Jane Grossman

Eric Putter and Naomi Vladeck

Met: September 1985

Engaged: Feb. 28, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 20, 2002

They’re both 31. They met at Rockland County Day, a school for gifted children in Congers, N.Y., and have been together pretty much constantly ever since. “We’re each other’s first everything ,” said Naomi Vladeck, director of development at the Dance Theater Workshop, a nonprofit in Chelsea.

Needless to say, they’ve been through a lot of couples’ therapy.

“After 16 years of dating, you have a lot of … habits,” Ms. Vladeck said. She mumbled something semi-intelligible about having a “primal attachment” but coming at it with “different styles of expression.”

Her longtime lover, Eric Putter, is a consultant database specialist at Merrill Lynch who studied philosophy at Brown and is not averse to a little psychobabble himself. “The therapist helped us to communicate, and to expose issues that we needed to communicate,” he said.

It was all so much simpler back in junior year, when young Mr. Putter fell for the new girl in class, with her unruly strawberry-blond curls, light smattering of freckles and funky, baggy togs. “She was the most gorgeous thing the school had ever seen,” he said.

They would nuzzle behind the giant school-bus seats on field trips and enjoyed their first French kiss at a mutual friend’s sweet-sixteen party.

Since then, they’ve never severed relations for longer than nine months, but he went through a lot of mental agony before committing to an entire lifetime. “I had significant problems with marriage as an institution and with the fact that it was something so prescribed by society,” he said. “I sort of began to perceive the boundaries of life and my whole existence-my life in this world until I die-and what it would actually mean to spend that time with one person. It had to be a tangible emotional and mental understanding before I could commit to it. And I achieved that.” Hooray !

One special night, he littered their Chelsea loft with several hundred Gerber daisies and roses. “I wanted that smell of nature and flowers,” he said. “I like to think of Naomi as a flower. She’s just pretty and soft and colorful.”

He had hidden a one-carat diamond in a platinum Tiffany setting with baguettes in a pile of flowers. Ms. Vladeck found it ostentatious. “I work for a nonprofit,” she said. “I needed something more subdued.”

She got the center stone reset in a yellow-gold band decorated with leaves at the Clay Pot in Park Slope. This is in line with the autumnal theme that they’re planning for their wedding, which is scheduled during peak fall foliage at a golf club overlooking the Hudson River Valley. The tables will be decorated with hydrangeas and pressed leaves that Ms. Vladeck’s mother has been collecting and drying in a microwave.

Their first dance, which they’ve been struggling to perfect with weekly lessons, will be to “At Last,” sung by Etta James.

“We never gave up,” Ms. Vladeck said.

“We’re motivated to be happy and to find peace and friendliness,” Mr. Putter said, “but we’re not grinning, shit-eating yahoos.”


Dore Provda and Jennifer Rosenbaum

Met: July 2000

Engaged: May 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Dec. 1, 2002

One afternoon Dore (pronounced “Dor-ee”) Provda placed a casual call to a female friend, intending to kick it up a notch and ask her out on a date. But the unwitting Juliet was in the midst of some distraction and handed the phone to a pal of hers, Jennifer Rosenbaum.

“I had no idea who she was,” said Mr. Provda, 25, a financial planner for the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association College Retirement Equities Fund, and an amateur guitarist with dark, soulful eyes. But the game fellow started talking to the stranger, quietly strumming to fill in the awkward pauses.

The next thing they knew, the two were flinging each other around to swing-dance music at Lincoln Center, among the other senselessly upbeat New Yorkers who enjoy this diversion. “We had the best time,” said Ms. Rosenbaum, 25, a human-resources analyst for Mellon Human Resources Solutions with full black hair and a heart-shaped face. “We never once ran out of things to say.”

Their second date was at Yankee Stadium. “I shoved an entire soft pretzel in my mouth at once,” Mr. Provda said. “At that point I knew I had her, because she didn’t run to call security!” Indeed.

After two years of solid, no-nonsense courtship, Mr. Provda purchased a book called 365 Love Poems , carved a hole in the chapter “Married Love” and placed a surprise inside. He then left the book sitting conspicuously on his end table. Ms. Rosenbaum failed to notice it.

“Why don’t you pick up that book?” her swain suggested finally.

When she discovered the Tiffany Lucida ring in a platinum band that he had so cleverly concealed, she burst into tears.

“I was in total shock,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed.”

“It takes a lot of hard work to try and figure something out,” Mr. Provda said of his proposal idea.

After she called everyone they knew, they celebrated with dinner on the patio at Habushtan, a favorite Italian restaurant in Queens.

Their wedding will be at the Grand Prospect Hall. He’ll wear a black Donna Karan tuxedo, and she’ll wear a white beaded dress.

“She got the deflection, and she ran with it!” said Mr. Provda of the unlikely phone interception that led him to his intended.

“I’m a sucker for anyone who can play the guitar,” Ms. Rosenbaum said.

-Emma Rathbone Countdown to Bliss